A year before Atlanta’s Summer Olympics got underway in 1996, the residents of Gulf Shores, Alabama, a five-hour drive from the Olympic Stadium, already were benefiting from the impending games.

A large contingent of athletes from the United Kingdom, their coaches and support staff descended on the small Gulf Coast community to train in an environment similar to what they’d encounter a year later. Thousands of people affiliated with the team came and went throughout the year, spending money at restaurants, hotels and local stores, according to Brian Corcoran, who at the time was a sponsorship manager for the Atlanta Committee of the Olympic Games.

That could happen for communities in Maine if Boston is selected to host the 2024 Summer Olympics, said Corcoran, who is now president and founder of Shamrock Sports and Entertainment, a sports marketing firm in Portland. The direct economic impact of the Atlanta games was roughly $5.1 billion, according to Corcoran, who wrote his master’s thesis on the subject.

“Tourism is one thing, but I really think based on my experience in Atlanta, (a Boston Olympics) would provide a big halo effect for job creation (in Maine),” Corcoran said. “Obviously, not all of it is sustainable and long term, but for a good 12 to 18 months Maine would see a heavy spike of new jobs in addition to the obvious surge in tourism.”


For now, though, the conversations are all hypothetical. On Thursday, the U.S. Olympic Committee chose Boston over San Francisco, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., as the country’s pick to bid to host the 2024 Games. Boston will complete with Rome, and perhaps Paris, Berlin and a South African city. The International Olympic Committee is expected to make its final selection during the summer of 2017.

The buzz over Boston’s selection already has people in the Portland area who work in the sports, hospitality and tourism industries talking about the potential economic impact from a Boston 2024 Summer Olympics and Paralympics.

“I think there’s a lot of opportunities for sure,” said Carolann Ouellette, Maine’s director of tourism, though she wasn’t prepared to guess at the level of economic impact. “It’s hypothetical for the moment, but we’ll see how it goes.”

“I think there are all kinds of positives here,” said Greg Dugal, CEO of the Maine Innkeepers Association and the Maine Restaurant Association. “People come from all over the world and any time people come from great distances they include other aspects of travel in their destinations. The spin-off effect could be incredible.”

Saco-based Peter Carlisle, a sports agent who represents Olympic athletes like swimmer Michael Phelps, gymnast Aly Raisman and Maine’s own snowboardcross medalist Seth Wescott, is the director of Olympics and action sports for the global sports marketing firm Octagon. Carlisle believes a Boston Olympics could have myriad impacts across Maine’s business community, especially from a marketing perspective.

“If you’re working in the marketing department of any company, you’re asking what are the opportunities out there to leverage, and one of the things you have to pay attention to is what’s relevant to people right now,” Carlisle said, noting the discussion about Boston’s Olympic prospects will be relevant for the next two years. “From a sports standpoint, the Olympics is the largest global marketing platform you can find.”

Though Olympic events are sometimes held far from the host city’s Olympic Stadium, the prospect of having any events in Maine is slim, according to Kerry Hoey, executive director of the Maine Sports Commission, a nonprofit that promotes Maine as a four-season destination for sporting events.

“I don’t know how much they’d need to use (our venues) because of the others closer to the Greater Boston area,” she said. “But I do believe as far as transportation and other hospitality needs, it would definitely utilize Maine and definitely the Greater Portland area.”


There are people, however, who argue against the Olympics-as-economic-engine theory.

Andrew Zimbalist, a sports economist at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, is author of “Circus Maximus: The Economic Gamble Behind Hosting the Olympics and the World Cup.” He said hosting the Olympics is not all it’s cracked up to be and the impacts of a Boston Olympics on Maine would be minimal. One bright spot would be for Maine’s construction workers, who would have opportunities for extra work just a few hours south, Zimbalist said.

“Beyond that, the reality is the Olympic cities in recent experience have not had an increase in tourism during the Olympics. They’ve had a decrease as people stay away because of feared congestion and high prices,” Zimbalist said, citing studies of the Beijing and London games that showed the number of tourists in those cities during the events was less than the same period the year before. “I don’t see any ripple effects in Portland, Maine, from the hosting. I don’t even think there’ll be any positive effects in Boston.”

Even if Zimbalist and those who oppose Boston’s bid for the games are right that Boston wouldn’t gain from hosting the games, there’s no way that’s true for the surrounding region, Corcoran said. For one, Maine wouldn’t have to carry any of the costs associated with Boston’s event. Second, the tourists attracted to Maine would be a boon. Also, Maine would be an attractive getaway destination for thousands of Bostonians who will rent their homes and apartments and flee the city during the games.

“I don’t think we can lose,” Corcoran said. “I think this could really fuel the fire of some extreme economic growth. … the Olympics coming to our region would create a lot of swagger for any business whether in sports or not.”